They make fashion; they curate a magazine called “Zina Cava;” Maggie Gyllenhaal models for them; they are, in my opinion, the coolest duo to come along in the fashion industry in years.

They host dinner parties instead of fashion shows and give away posters like the one below celebrating their 8 years in business. It’s the kind of party you hope you’ll get an invitation to…

They have a blog that inspires; they are beautiful spirits. Is there anything that Lisa Mayock and Sophie Buhai can’t do (and do well)?

They are Council of Fashion Designers of America members–like me–and designers I admire.

In 2008 they were runners-up for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, have an impressive fashion resume, and a slew of collaborations under their (very pretty) belts. Last week I found patterns for three of their dresses at Vogue Designer Patterns.

This is how it happened:

I was having a conversation with a friend (and colleague) about DIY and fashion and the void I see between the two.  As we spoke, I was perusing the internet and came across the Vogue Designer Patterns. Honestly, I had forgotten that Vogue Patterns has done designer collaborations for decades and was surprised to find the very modern Vena Cava among the current offerings.

In the process of writing our books over the last years, I have visualized a place that fashion as business, art, and, yes, Craft – in the capital “C” sense of the word–can intersect with DIY and “home-craft.” It hasn’t been easy. There has been a gap in the conversation: the growing DIY world works on one side and the fashion world on the other side; only occasionally do the two meet in the middle. I keep asking myself, “Where is this intersection?”  Where does Alabama Chanin, “The Collection,” meet Alabama Chanin, “The DIY?”

Did you know that when Christian Dior launched the New Look, he didn’t actually produce the clothing that he sold to stores like Bergdorf Goodman?  He licensed patterns to Bergdorf Goodman, who took the New Look patterns, sourced fabric, and manufactured the garments locally in New York City.  Hence, when you find a beautiful vintage garment, the label will read both “Bergdorf Goodman” and “Christian Dior’s New Look.” This is really sustainable fashion at its best: global design coupled with local manufacturing.

At the same time, those New Look patterns–and ones like them– were available through pattern companies like Vogue Patterns, making modern, fashionable styles accessible to every woman who had the courage to sew them. Add to this an innovative “home-loan” program initiated by the Singer Sewing Machine Company– in which a family could purchase a “home sewing machine” on a payment plan –and high-fashion made its way to every corner of America. DIY culture before it was called DIY.

All of these things were running through my mind, while pursuing the Vogue Designer Patterns that day on the phone with my friend.  While we spoke, my eye was drawn to the Vena Cava patterns at the bottom of the page.  I decided that a perfect place for DIY and FASHION to meet would be over a Vena Cava Vogue Pattern. Before our conversation ended, I had added the pattern for the dress below to my cart and checked out.

So, when the pattern arrived in the studio, we made our own versions of the Vena Cava design above, using Alabama Chanin hand-sewing techniques.

Then, last week in New York City, I had a chance to sit down with Lisa, show her our dresses, and talk about the intersection of fashion, craft, and life. Come back next Thursday for more of that conversation, along with instructions for making two Alabama Chanin versions of the Vena Cava dress.

Today, starting with Vena Cava, we launch an ongoing series of DIY Thursdays.  That’s right, every Thursday here: Fashion + Craft + DIY.

Below is a sneak peek at one of our hand-sewn Vena Cava + Alabama Chanin DIY Dresses (photographed on Vena Cava’s Lisa Mayock by our friend Peter Stanglmayr):

Come back next week for the DIY instructions and join our conversation in the comments below…



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Click to read 24 comments
  1. shriv

    Wow! So inspiring! I try to make all my clothes (including those with patterns intended for the sewing machine) by hand. But this, is a world away from my modest efforts. So gorgeous!! I am really looking forward to the instructions.

  2. Heather

    YES!!! As a young girl, I would peruse the pattern collaberations with my favorites like ESPRIT and Laura Ashley. I was just telling my teenage daughter about a flourescent (I know now they call it neon :)) print skirt I made from an ESPRIT pattern in 7th grade. My mom made a matching cropped top. I loved it! My mom also helped me make a pretty Laura Ashley dress that looked like the store bought ones- but I might have loved mine more. I can still remember these clothes more vividly than any store bought clothes. I love this series idea and will look forward to every Thurs!! That dress is GORGEOUS!!

    1. Mary Simmons

      Oh this is so cool! I just finished a bloomers shirt from your stitch book. Very fun! My mom was a great seamstress,my aunts and grandmothers as well. i have always done embriodery and painted. This fashion connection to craft and art is what I want!!!! I love that dress,with your handsewn touch. i’m ready:}

      1. Michele Anderson

        I am in my 50’s and when i started sewing i made a dress then called a Moo moo at the age of 7. I went on to sew and make many dresses and wedding frocks. I have always tried to put some sort of embroidery or embellishment on my dresses over the years and laugh when i see fraying as my mother would never believe that it would be fashionable to see raw edges..i was taught that you over turned every seam..i love this dress and would love to take on the challenge..this work inspires me to do it all again ..thankyou

    1. Mareena Hunter

      I love this idea so much! Now that I am over here in Germany, I look at the pattern books from Patrones, Burda, La Mia Boutique and think….how would one of these look made up in an Alabama Chanin way!

      I also love where you are going with this, Natalie!


  3. Pingback: Duchess Kate’s Design Award, Vena Cava x Alabama Chanin, Nike Pays Up | Improvisate

  4. Pingback: Vena Cava (+ Alabama Chanin DIY Dress) « Alabama Chanin

  5. Sloane LaCasse

    Thanks for continuing your commitment to the connection between craft and fashion, and for telling the story of the old method of designer production. I, too, have been wondering how to combine AC techniques to a wider range of garments. Your work continues to provide layers of inspiration.

  6. Ashley Boccuti

    Oh I am so excited!!! I ran out to my local fabric store and bought that Vena Cava pattern as soon as I saw this post! I’m going to order the fabric to make the dress over the weekend, and I plan to make this as soon as you post the instructions!!! So excited!!!

  7. Marlowe Crawford

    I’ve been sewing with designer patterns from Butterick since the early 70s. I loved Kenzo and Betsy Johnson so much in high school I think I made every pattern of their designs two or three times. In the 80s I made the leap to Vogue Designer patterns. The intersection for me has always been taking the designer pattern and matching it to fabric that is “me” and making a piece of clothing that fits.

  8. Janet

    I love this pattern and would love to see this! Unfortunately I cannot buy this in the Netherlands… do you know where I can buy this?
    Kind regards, Janet

    1. Alabama Chanin

      Hi Janet. This pattern is a retired Vogue pattern, so it might not be available for purchase in most places anymore, unfortunately.

    1. Alabama Chanin

      Hi Roseline,

      Unfortunately, this pattern is no longer available online through Vogue Patterns. We suggest searching online for a secondhand seller that you trust, like Etsy. If you are member of an online sewing community like The School of Making Stitchalong group, you could ask around there. Best of luck, and we hope you have success finding the pattern. It is a beautiful dress!